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We have found that there are ten factors that determine the success or failure of any organizational change. In this series, we will examine each of these factors. The fifth factor is balancing decision-driven and behavior-dependent change.
Organizations that are most effective at driving change recognize the importance of creating an appropriate balance of decision-driven and behavior-dependent change. While decisions can be difficult, they are easy to make compared to changing behavior. For most, this factor means creating a balance by paying more attention to the behavior-dependent elements of change rather than simply the decision-driven change activities. Overdependence on either will weigh down and slow change effectiveness.
Change is hard, but sustaining change is even more difficult. To accomplish this, effective organizations pay attention to the necessary behavior changes required to both adopt and sustain the change. They ensure that their staff have the appropriate motivation, ability and triggers to support the behavior change.
Effective organizations also understand that behavior change takes time. They build their change agenda with this in mind. They leave sufficient time between activities to support and reinforce the behavior change before moving on to the next set of initiatives. They are also mindful of how to bundle change activities to be most impactful.
Finally, leaders understand that important behavior change requires hard work to imbed this across the organization. They don’t rely on the heroics of a few as an alternative. They are also willing to make hard choices about individuals who ultimately can’t get on board.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are organizations that lack a balance between decision-driven and behavior-dependent change. They often confuse decisions for action and underestimate the behavior change required for each decision. They make lots of decisions but don’t fully support the behavior changes required to capitalize on them. They layer on additional activities without a sufficient focus on sustainable change. These organizations often rely on the extra effort of a few overachievers to get a temporary win but haven’t built a solid foundation for change. Some are so focused on getting everyone on the bus that they never achieve any meaningful results.
Where is your organization on this spectrum? If you don’t feel that you have an appropriate balance of decision-driven and behavior-dependent change, consider the following:
- Make a list of key decisions you have made in the past 12 months. Assess how many were successfully implemented and how many had the right behavior change to support the decision. If you find that key decisions are stalled or not delivering what you expected, are you willing to try a different, more balanced approach?
- Do you understand what additional actions are needed to provide the motivation, ability and triggers to support the change?
- Have you devoted sufficient energy and resources to demonstrate your commitment to required behavior change?
- Does your timeline consider behavioral change aspects?
- Are you taking appropriate actions to correct or eliminate unacceptable behaviors?